There are no Speeding Tickets in China

In Doing the China Tango I discussed the driving habits of a great many Chinese drivers. But, as with all authors, you sometimes can’t get into the level of detail you like in the few lines or paragraphs you have to get your point across and move on. If we get too descriptive the book tends to drag and move in a number of directions. Editors hate this have the author re-write those areas of the book. Therefore authors try and be descriptive, succinct, and then move on. The lack of speeding tickets in China, therefore, is something I’ve always wanted to add a couple of more paragraphs on and I’m now glad to discuss it in a little more detail.

First off, Chinese drivers are not stopped for speeding on the highway. There’s no highway patrol car, with lights and siren, pulling someone over. As a result you’ll see cars weaving through traffic at high rates of speed and passing police cars in the process! This was something I couldn’t believe when I first came to China and, on my way from the airport, saw my driver in fact weaving between cars and cutting office a police cruiser. In the U.S. that would undoubtedly get you the bed and breakfast plan at the local jail. In China, nobody thinks twice about it.

The reason for this, as I soon learned, was that speeding is determined by radar detection and a photo of the speeding cars license plate. The police therefore know who the infringer is and tickets are then sent in the mail, with the average ticket costing around $32. The radar is usually, but not always, placed on overpasses so you’ll often see drivers brake hard before getting to them and then speed up afterwards. Chinese drivers know where the police radar is located and this practice of slowing down before you come to the radar is a common practice in China’s major cities.

Some drivers, however, get a little more creative and either cover up part of their license plates or else place false license-place stickers (which are widely available) over their original license plate numbers. The police seem to draw the line with license plate stickers and violators can get thrown in jail for two weeks if caught. However, for the most part, drivers rely on knowing the location of police radar and adapt their driving habits accordingly.


Alan Refkin

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